This update on my blog took longer than expected because of commitments at work, but finally; here is a new post for you all to enjoy. This time with one very important bass player. This article should be of equal interest for Bowie-fans as for fans of Uriah Heep and Mick Ronson.
Trevor Bolder sadly died in May 2013 at the age of 62 from cancer.
“We`ve still got the Bowie costumes. We can wear those.”
…says down-home, duffle-coated, non-decadent Spider From Mars Trevor Bolder to debonair, trench-coated, cosmopolitan Lizard from Poland Chris Salewicz (late of the uncredited Gong feature on last week`s page 12). Thrill to it!
Ah, the romance contained in those four letters: Images of a nation torn apart by the hardship inflicted on the Men Of Hull by the heinous Icelanders; a spiritual kinship with the Brest of Jean Genet; the scent of rotting fish drifting down the Beverley Road. Perhaps one day Sailor will write a romantic concept album about Hull.
Unless the Spiders From Mars beat `em to it.
It is in Hull (where else?) that the Spiders From Mars are currently tucked away rehearsing for a British tour. “A long way from David Bowie,” you might think. “How unchic,” you may well grunt. And you`d probably be right.
After all, these lads could well be accused of being a little naughty going around calling themselves by that name. Wherefore art thou, Ronno? Also half-whither pianist Mike Garson direct from working with Lulu and David Essex – who`s about to split the land back to his native USA to renew his British visa. He will not be joining the Spiders From Mars. He has, however, played on their album. He may join them for the tour, when it materialises. If they haven`t managed to find another keyboard player, that is.
And “they”? “They” are bassist Trevor Bolder and drummer Woody Woodmansey. Half the original Bowie-backing Spiders. To be precise, the rhythm section.
“All depends on how much importance you put on a name and how much you put on the music and the band,” comments Trevor Bolder stunningly. We are seated on some peculiarly spine-twisting Habitat chairs (the Campus range, actually) in an office overlooking the Edgware Road at the headquarters of Pye. Not Hull in the strictest geographical sense, perhaps, but close to it spiritually.
With Trevor is Pete McDonald, the Spiders` vocalist. Pete speaks infrequently and yawns frequently. This is because he couldn`t go to sleep last night because he was driving down from his home in Newcastle to London. Via Hull, of course, to pick up Trevor from his home.
Now, Trevor. I do feel it unlikely that you would have been booked to play the few billtopping college dates you have played if you`d been masquerading as the 50% unknown band that you actually are under another name.
“I dunno. I never booked them.” More Trevor Bolder stun-speech. And then: “It`s a leverage. It`s a place for us to go from. Why the hell should I try and start rock-bottom again if I`ve got something I can use? But it`s as hard for us to use the name again as it is not to use it, if you know what I mean. Because people say `Oh, the bloody Spiders again. What they doin`?`. And then they just brush it aside.
“But we like the name and we never did get to do an album on our own as a backup band. Which was planned to be done. It fell through when we just disbanded, you know, when Ronson went and did his own album. And so we decided to do one. And we like the name. We think it`s a good name. It`s unusual. People always go `Oooo. What?`.”
And yet, Trevor, you must admit to only being half of the original Spiders.
“I think if we`re going to do anything anyway it`s going to be on what music the band gives off.” Trevor disposes with further finicky obsessions about detail with true Northern bluntness.
With the exception of Woody Woodmansey – who is at this moment ” `ammerin` out” a new drum-kit down in East Grinstead (ho-hum) and who was replaced by Aynsley Dunbar – all the Bowie Spiders recorded “Pinups”. “Pinups” was, in fact, the last time that these musicians were to record with the Beckenham Boy although no-one knew that at the time. Shortly afterwards they entered the studio with Mick Ronson in charge to lay down the tracks for “Slaughter On 10th Avenue”.
“I thought `e should have played more rock`n`roll meself to be honest,” laughs Trevor, “I really thought he shouldn`t have gone out and tried to be a singer. He should have concentrated on being a rock guitar player.”
Question voiced: So whose idea was it that he should lay down his guitar and start airing the tonsils? (Question implied: So tell me all about Tony De Fries` manipulation of Poor Innocent Ronno?).
“Is. It was `is career. `E did what `e wanted. `E `ad a free `and in everything `e wanted to do. `E wasn`t told by De Fries. I think `e just `ad a lack of experience at that point in what direction to go in and `e just got together wheatever `e could and just did an album. And `e just went in the direction it went in.”
The Pye press officer sticks his head around the door and mumbles something unintelligible to my ears.
“We`re `oping,” Trevor translates, “to be doing the big dates with Dave in London as a support band. It`s just an idea that we`ve been talking on the phone about” (the much more financially reasonable localised Hull telephone service, I expect). “Might not come off. All depends what `e feels like. But `e keeps changing `is mind. You can never tell with `im. `E`s that sort of a person,” he adds, looking knowingly at me.
You had that problem with him when you were working together?
“Oooooh. All the time.”
Because I`ve always had the impression that David Bowie is enormously together and seems to know exactly what he wants.
“Oh, `e does but I mean like. `E knows what `e`s after. `E knows what direction `e`s going in but `e changes `is mind about things. For the right time. One day `e`ll say one thing and then `e`ll realise it`s the wrong thing and `e`ll change it again. That`s the way `e works.”
As a young lady enters the room to search unsuccessfully for “Jim`s diary” – Trevor talks about DB and Money: “We was just on wages. Always was. Well,” he pauses a moment or two, “We thought it might have been different but it never was. I mean, we got good wages. The money went up as the band progressed. As it got bigger and bigger we earned more. We didn`t earn a fortune like people thought we did. De Fries and Dave earned the money. We just earned a good living.”
So what happened after “Pinups”? Why`dja pack it in?
“With Bowie??? I didn`t really pack it in. You mean playing? I don`t know.” He says it as if the question has never occurred to him. “We never saw each other after that. I mean, I didn`t see David for about four or five months, you know, and I went off and played on Mick`s album. And whether `e thought `Eh eh? `E`s gone off with Mick and I`ll get somebody else in` I don`t know.
“But I just accepted it. I was too busy working wi` Mick.”
“On to play on `Don`t Worry`, the second Mick Ronson solo album,” I prompt?
He nods: “That was a funny album. It took months. We went to France to record it first and we used this studio that wasn`t very good and we spent two weeks there and `e only kept about two tracks, I think. Two backing tracks. And `e came back and recorded it all again at Trident. A very expensive job.
“It was just after that he joined up with Mott. I don`t know why.”
Trevor Bolder then made lengthy and abortive searches to find musicians to form a band of his own. None were suitable. One day he walked into Cube Records and met up with Barry Bethel, a MainMan organizations expatriate. Bethel recommended first a vocalist, Pete McDonald, from a Cube signed Geordie band, Bullfrog. Bolder got off on his Paul Rodgers-esque vocals. “And I decided to get together with Woody (Woodmansey) as well. And Woody thought it was a good idea `cause `e wasn`t doing anything at the time. So there was three of us and we needed a guitar player.”
Pete McDonald recommended yet another Cube artist, Dave Black, guitarist with a band called Kestrel. “Sort of McLaughlin, Yes type of thing. Different style totally from what I`ve been used to. A very fast guitar player. And we got `im down, got off on `is playing and we went from there. This is February of last year.”
Was there any period after you left Bowie where you wondered what the hell you were going to do next?
“Well, I automatically thought `What the `ell am I going to do`, you know. But I decided that there was only one thing to do and that was to form another band, you know. Get playing again. Because I `adn`t stopped playing just `cause I`d finished with David. That was all in the past.
“Even when I look back on it now it`s very hard to bring to mind all the times when I was onstage. It`s like I`ve been to the pictures and watched it at the pictures and you get like glimpses. I`d sort of forgotten what it was like playing with him, you know. It`s all sort of gone and I`m just like looking for summ`at new now.
“But I mean like you play with Dave and you play bass and you contribute to the albums with a few ideas but that`s about as far as it goes. You don`t get to write any songs.
“Whereas this way we`ve got more freedom. You can do what you want and enjoy it. Everybody gets to write and to put in their ideas and it feels more like a stable band whereas before it was a band and one man and you didn`t know what was going to happen next. And in the end, of course, we just bust up.”
Pete McDonald breaks his silence: “The writing potential`s great `cos we wrote that whole album in five days. It just seemed to click.”
And you expect the album to chart?
“Ye-ahhh,” says Trevor, just a little hesitantly,” If we get the right promotion and get the band onto a tour and let people see the band. It`s a very visual band. Very rock. We don`t just stand there.
“We`ve still got the Bowie costumes. We`ve still got the clothes. We can always wear those. But as compared to the Bowie thing it`s much more raw. Much more rock. There`s not as much theatre.”
Pete for the third time: “It`s a lot of fun as well. It`s all amusement. The serious bits don`t come into it too much. If somebody makes the wrong move they just get filled in by the others. No stars.”
“I think people take the business too seriously,” nods Trevor Bolder. “I mean, I did when I was with Dave. I used to think everything had to be so right. But you`ve got to go out there and have fun and that`s what we`re trying to do. To enjoy it for ourselves as much as the audience.”
Those were the days – when Boots sold records!
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Emmylou Harris, The Sexual language of rock (not a band!), Dave Burland, Johnny Clarke, Steve Harley, Kokomo, 10 cc, Lee Brilleaux.
The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!
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